Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: Arcade Fire- The Suburbs

Canadian Indie Rock kings Arcade Fire have probably benifitted the most from being a buzzband. Their 2004 debut "Funeral" caught they eye of every hipster, A&R guy, and mainstream cool guy to the point where the damn thing was out of print. It is a landmark album and changed the way that music was going to be marketed for alt rock as we see it now. As if that wasn't enough, 2007's "Neon Bible" was a sophomore jump of an album. Loud, anthematic, and warm, it showed us that they weren't a flash in the pan, but in fact, the next great band. Sadly, "The Suburbs" is a mess. Slow, boring, and as bland as indie rock can get, it's almost hard to believe that they were nearly fighting Radiohead for most important band in the world.

"The Suburbs" is poorly sequenced, it's not top or bottom heavy, hell it's just not heavy, it's a collection of auto pilot songs sprinkled with some of the best material the band has ever done. The opening title track continues the band's winning streak of awesome openers. Like "Neighborhood #1" and "Black Mirror", "The Suburbs" is a track worty of your attention with Win Butler's voice mowing over a near rockabilly tune, it's not anthem, but it's a great song that ranks up there with the band's best work and starts the album on a high note. Oddly enough, it's about as high of a note this album has, and the next few songs that follow are painful to endure.

"Ready to Start", "Modern Man", and "Rococo" are little more than dreary, there's really nothing new here to add that the band hasn't expanded on and done much better on their first two albums. The tracks lack of the Springsteen like sound that defined "Neon Bible" and made it such an enjoyable album, instead it sounds flat and hurried with a sense of "what can we say now?" or "what should we play?". "Empty Room" follows which sounds like a track off of Owen Pallett's "Heartland" on crack, stringy and fast, it washes out the bad taste of the previous three songs.

"Empty Room" is way too short and we're again bombarded with more boring tracks that are grey and less interesting than what they've showed. It's all forgiven though once "Month of May" hits you with it's heavy as thunder, rock and roll, ballsy, Queens of the Stone Age riffage. This song is what the band should sound like, it's not only the best song off the album, but probably the best of the entire year. With Win and the misses dueling on vocals, it's shows the strength of what made them a big fucking deal in the first place. It's a track that wouldn't sound out of place on "Neon Bible", exactly the type of song to play to get the crowd ready to get excited and have fun, something the band can't seem to accomplish.

"Month of May" ends and again, we're attacked with pellets until the surprisingly dancy "Sprawl II" comes up. With it's synthpop hooks and female vox, it's a nice surprise to end an album that is nothing else but a failure in execution. "Sprawl II" utilizes RĂ©gine Chassagne's voice which is a hidden treasure for the band, making it an enjoyable end to an album that's not a breeze to sit through.

One thing striking about the album is even in Obama's USA, Butler still writes songs because he has a chip on his shoulder. He's a bitter guy who comes off as someone who can't have fun. This time around he's taking pot shots at suburban life and hipster, two things that made this band matter. Call it a matter of biting the hand that feeds, but listening to Butler croon about how miserable he is is exhausting and just plain silly at this point.

Like The Strokes with "First Impressions of Earth", Arcade fire have hit a slump on their third album, making us fail to see what's so special about them. Even though they had blood bad last year, Win Butler can take some hits from Wayne Coyne on how to have fun and not be self serious being in a band that can do so much more. It's a swing and a miss and proves what we feared, these kids aren't ready for the torch yet.

** out of *****

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